Roderick Harper presents music that’s easy to gravitate toward, whether, as a new or longtime fan. The New
Orleans vocalist offers a smooth and elegant timbre. But its specific character exudes a lightness and moves
through melodies with a playful flow, rather than a dense and serious tone.
A take of “The Great City” showcases this point, as Harper’s vocal slides fluidly from note to note, leaving the occasional aural nod—grace note like in brevity—curled over syllables at the end of a lyric line. Secondary
elements like Chris Guccione’s swing drumming on the track, and the deceptive upward note movement for a line about “drag[ging] you down,” enhance the music’s playful core. “Infinite Heart,” the album’s one original, features saxophonist Donald Harrison and is propelled by a melody eschewing tonal predictability. Here, Harper can break away from the slippery slope of conventional jazz chord progressions, without abandoning his assured and comforting style.
—Kira Grunenberg Downbeat Magazine April 2021
Roderick Harper: e.volv.ing
Jazz Weekly by George W. Harris • March 4, 2021 •
I always have a soft spot for male vocalists, as they seem outnumbered by the ladies by about 10:1 in terms of albums released. Louisiana-stationed Roderick Harper has a warm, relaxed and comfortable voice, sort of in the line of Boz Scaggs or Michael Franks, as he mixes up modern pieces in a fragrant smorgasbord of tunes. His romantic baritone works with a working team of Gerald Watkins-Jamison Ross-Geoff Clapp/dr, Oscar Rossignoli-Ellis Marsalis-Jesse Davis, Robin Sherman-Roland Guerin/b in rotation along with guests such as Donald Harrison on the patient post bopper “Infinite Heart”,. With strings, he gets personal in delivery on “Never Let Me Go” and the cozy read of “In Summer (Estate)”. He swerves around Shermans bass on the flexible “Valsa Mineira” and hip “Sack Full Of Dreams” with a wanderlust tribute to his local haunts on “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?”. Lots to like about this guy; get him on the road!
Evolving: Smooth jazz comes to Nawlins as the crafty vocalist lines up a crew of the best to turn in a solid jazz vocal date that smacks of summer jazz. Finding his own voice in more ways than one, this set is just right for those early after hours times when the moving needs to be easy as you ease into something else. Well done.
MMR Blog (Midwest Record Blog)
Next, we have the new album from New Orleans-based soul singer Roderick Harper titled "Evolving." It features a dozen tracks that include appearances from some special guests, like the late piano legend Ellis Marsalis, jazz sax icon Donald Harrison and vocalist/drummer Jamison Ross. The album begins with the smooth, swinging tempo of "Infinite Heart," which introduces you to Harper's warm, silky vocals. The soft, subtle touch of "Never Let Me Go" is highlighted by the beautiful piano work of Ellis Marsalis, while the dreams of racial justice is heard loud and clear on the emotional ballad "Someday We'll All Be Free." Roderick Harper picks up the tempo with the nostalgic sounds of "The Great City" and let his voice be his instrument with the wonderful skat-singing of "Valsa Minera." You will simply melt, listening to Harper's velvet voice on "In Summer," before he closes his new album with the loose, upbeat, New Orleans jazz flavor of "Salty Dog" and the final nod to his home with the graceful approach of "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans."
jpsmusicblog.com - December 2020
JazzTimes is honored to premiere the video for “Never Let Me Go” by New Orleans-based vocalist Roderick Harper. The track, a cover of the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans classic first made famous by Nat King Cole, will appear on his album Evolving, scheduled for a November 20 release on RHM Entertainment.
“I’ve spent the last few years deep in a process of self-discovery and change,” Harper says. “I’ve been trying to understand myself, to peel off the cellophane and really get at what’s underneath. This album is the sound of me becoming the man I was always meant to be.”
Besides Harper on lead vocal, this version of “Never Let Me Go” features Robin Sherman on bass, Jamison Ross on drums, a string arrangement by Thomas Dawson, and—in one of his final recordings—the late great Crescent City pianist Ellis Marsalis, who contributes an aptly delicate and thoughtful solo intro. Harper describes Marsalis as “one of my mentors” and calls recording with him “a priceless gift … He taught me so much. I’m eternally grateful.”
Elsewhere on Evolving, another New Orleans icon, saxophonist Donald Harrison, not only guest-stars but also contributes a tune, “Infinite Heart” (with lyrics by Harper). Other tracks on the album include a rendition of Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”—a nod to Harper’s time with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra—and tributes to Shirley Horn (“The Great City”) and Betty Carter (“Look What I Got”).
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 3, 2020 – BY JAZZTIMES
“RODERICK HARPER is a Significant stylist and rising star among local young jazz vocalists. This Washington D.C. native always knew he wanted to sing and performed with school and city choirs and in local musicals. His favorite vehicles were R&B and pop, not jazz. In fact his first experience with jazz came serendipitously when he purchased Wynton Marsalis’ album, Think of One Album. At first he found the music confusing and hard to understand but he was looking for a challenge at the time. Becoming a jazz singer would be just that! However, not until he visited Southern University to check out their music program was he really immersed in jazz. He distinctly remembers walking down the halls of the music building and “boom, jazz was everywhere!” Roderick left D.C. where his family had been his strongest musical influence and came to study at Southern with Alvin Batiste. His dedication and talent forged strong connections with Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Picture Perfect, Alvin Batiste’s Jazztronauts. Roderick feels strongly responsible for the music he composes and performs and wants to inspire and set an example for others. His discovery of a jazz career has that fairy tale quality that promises a happy ending.”
— Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
“. . . Jon Hendricks and Company’s show also introduced a young musician sympathetic to his style, Roderick Harper of Southern University in Baton Rouge. The 23 year-old Harper, whose vocal aspiration were fueled by rhythm and blues, showed himself to be an able convert to jazz when Hendricks invited him onstage for a round of Thelonius Monk’s Rhythmaning. . .”
— Jazztimes Magazine
“. . .Duke Ellington’s “Sound of Love,” which featured a warm vocal contributed from Roderick X. Harper.” - -Reubea Jackson
— THE WASHINGTON POST
“. . . Among his young aces are bassist Roland Guerin and the smooth and serious singer, Roderick Harper. Their Soulful duet of “Body and Soul” expanded into a reading of “I Can’t Get Started” that featured Gerry Mulligan, Artistic Director of the jazz series, on piano” - Lloyd Sachs
— Chicago Sun-Times
“. . . Vocalist, Harper notes that Black Jazz Musicians of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s had to contend with frustrating racial barriers. Using drugs may have been their way of coping, he says. “We don’t have to deal with that. They broke down those walls. It’s our responsibility to take advantage of whatthey’ve given us” Harper says. While tipping their hat to Wynton Marsalis for planting the seeds of the traditional jazz renaissance, the guys in Picture Perfect cite their teacher, AlvinBatiste, as their foremost influence. “He’s the bridge builder. He’s passing on a legacy to us that we’ll by passing on to the next generation.” Harper says. . .. . . on vocalists Roderick Harper. “he’s a very special talent. He literally loves jazz.He’s able to do all the idioms of that period. But his own personality is beginning to form. It comes through in the way he turns a melody.” . . .” - Todd Dreher
— Baton Rouge Morning Advocate